Movie stars playing chess

by Albert Silver
2/23/2015 – With the 2015 Academy Awards running its course, it is only fitting to take a look at the many movie stars who chose chess as their preferred pastime or hobby. When they had some time off whilst shooting a movie, they were caught in front of a board more often than not. Some names are well known such as Humphrey Bogart, but how about stars such as James Dean, Marlon Brando, and John Wayne?

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John Wayne and son Patrick during a break on the set of “McLintock!” (1963)

Lauren Bacall gives chessmaster Herman Steiner “the look” while Charles Boyer and Humphrey
Bogart finish a game between takes of “Confidential Agent” (1945) in which Boyer was starring.
The scene is Boyer’s dressing room at Warner Bros. Studio.

Marlon Brando between takes of “Julius Caesar” (1953) in which he starred as Marc Antony

Gary Oldman in front of his chess set

Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry play chess in Fry’s rooms at Cambridge in 1980. Though the two really
broke through thanks to their comedic partnership in "Jeeves and Wooster", and their eponymous hit
show “A Bit of Fry and Laurie”, Hugh Laurie may be more recognizable to younger viewers as “House”.

 

An example of their lasting comedic work, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry in the sketch 'Your name, sir?'

Young Samuel Reshevsky plays against Charlie Chaplin

Every chess player knows the famous scene in "Casablanca" with Humphrey Bogart in front of a
chessboard, but here is one off-camera, on the set of the film. In it Claude Rains (left) watches the
usual suspects, Humphrey Bogart and Paul Heinreid, play a game.

Gregory Peck playing chess on the set of the classic "The Guns of Navarone" (1961)

Jimmy Stewart (right), Grace Kelly and Wendell Corey on the set of “Rear Window” (1954)

James Dean studies a chess position

Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper and director Frank Capra on the set of "Meet John Doe" (1941)



Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.

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